Pulitzer Prize-winning author to discuss technology addiction Thursday | SummitDaily.com

Pulitzer Prize-winning author to discuss technology addiction Thursday

Kirsten Dobroth
Special to the Daily
Award-winning author Matt Richtel will host a talk for the Vail Symposium on Thursday, Feb. 4, exploring the relationship that the world’s population has developed with its cellphones.
Special to the Daily |

If you go …

What: “Confessions of a Phone Addict,” part of the Vail Symposium’s Winter Season.

When: 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 4.

Where: Colorado Mountain College, 150 Miller Ranch Road, Edwards.

Cost: $10 for general admission.

More information: Visit vailsymposium.org.

Chances are that on the gondola this morning, the bus ride into town or maybe even in the neighboring car during the commute, at least one person was fiddling with his or her cellphone.

Mindless, compulsive, obnoxious or necessary, the relationship that the world’s population has developed with its cellphones is one that has turned into more of an epidemic than a symbiotic exchange, and it often leaves even the most reasonable of individuals at the beck and call of an illuminated screen.

Award-winning author Matt Richtel will host a talk for the Vail Symposium on Thursday, exploring this connection and the neurological and psychological effects that come along with it.

The investigation

A noted New York Times reporter, he has spent much of his career looking at the ramifications of being a technology- and, more specifically, mobile device-centric species and won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2009 series about the dangers of driving while multitasking.

Thursday’s talk, titled “Confessions of a Cell Phone Addict,” will bring the same balance of humor and sobering statistics found in his award-winning series and should provide some helpful hints about mitigating the constant pull to mobile devices.

“If you were an alien landing on the street, you might think that these screens were appendages or some sort of bodily device that required a regular check-in,” he said, “The aim of the evening is to give people the tools to use their device in a healthier way.”

Researching risks

Jokes aside, his interest in the subject began as a reflection of his own compulsiveness when it came to his relationship with his phone. Consumed by an interest to understand his own behavior, he spent countless hours with neuroscientists and other scholars looking at human relationships with technology since World War II and developing a comprehensive web of research to explain the inexplicable draw to the phone. As such, Richtel’s work provides a very human illustration of what happens to the brain when inundated with the inhuman.

“Getting into the science, there are serious costs to being consumed by your phone in the form of impaired memory, learning and down time,” he said. “The neuroscience tells us that there are even bigger challenges to teens in this sense, given their developing brains.”

On a more psychological note, increased phone use can have implications in how current and future generations deal with things such as boredom and discomfort, which can lead to more difficult paths for parents to navigate in a media-heavy world.

Additionally, the pull of constant phone checking can lead to even the most reasonable of individuals being overridden by irrational tendencies. Taking risks when driving — and more observable, obnoxious habits such as consuming media in public and inappropriate places — are often the byproducts of the need to constantly check, click and call.

Back in the area

While the Vail Symposium talk will be a first for Richtel, the Boulder native is no stranger to Vail and is looking forward to being back in the area. (You can catch him ripping Highline bumps off Chair 10 in his downtime).

Witty and armed with a plethora of research, Thursday’s event should help provide some insight into breaking the bond with the little devices that seem to demand so much attention. Check out the Vail Symposium’s website at http://www.vailsymposium.org for more information.

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